China's Ghost Malls

Thanks to massive projects fuelled by developers rather than retailers, and official efforts to spur a consumer economy, China is becoming home to massive, deserted malls.
October 3, 2011, 12pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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Dongguan's enormous South China Mall is the world's largest. However, with barely 2 percent of the outlets rented, it has become a cavernous white elephant. Yet this is merely the largest of China's dead malls -- and construction continues on even more. The Globe and Mail examines what went wrong.

"Even by China's standards, the New South China Mall was particularly ill-conceived. A high-end shopping destination was always a stretch for Dongguan, a factory city of six million people in southern Guangdong province that relies on low-cost labour imported from other parts of China. Just past its fifth birthday, the mall's exterior paint is already starting to peel off its faux European architecture. Rivers of rust streak down from the railings of the emergency exit staircases...Only 47 of an astonishing 2,350 retail spaces are filled, the most successful businesses being McDonalds and KFC restaurants near the mall's front entrance.

The most curious thing about the New South China Mall is that it's far from unique. Largely empty megamalls are an increasingly common sight in cities around China. More are being built, even as millions of square metres of retail space already sit empty."

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Published on Monday, October 3, 2011 in The Globe and Mail
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